Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lord of Your Loneliness
"...I will never leave you, nor forsake you"


"God makes a home for the lonely..." Psalm 68:6A






To this day and forever God has been and always will be an extraordinary guardian of the defenseless. Though the world around us pridefully says, "God helps those who help themselves," the reality is just the opposite. God helps those who can't help themselves. Those that find themselves utterly destitute of confidence in their own abilities to deliver themselves from their calamity, pain, helplessness or hopelessness, and are ship-wrecked on His grace, cast-a-ways on His mercy; find a place of refuge with the Lord (Romans 5:8-10). He comes to the rescue to those who are void of their own strength and are completely bankrupt of their own competence to find their rest and assurance only in Him. "Blessed are the poor in spirit" Jesus said. (Matthew 5:3) Paul understood what it meant to be utterly abandoned to God when he says, "we worship in the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus and place no confidence in the flesh." (Philippians 3:3 emphasis added) This is not only necessary for salvation but essential for our daily sanctification.

Gideon: God's Dependent General
God will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8). He delights in placing us in circumstances where He alone receives the glory for our rescue and deliverance. Remember Gideon when fighting in battle against an army of Midianites greater than 130,000 strong? (Judges 7) Gideon's forces were outnumbered by a margin of better than 4 to 1 and God said his armies were too many for victory. Schwarzkopf or Powell would have been discharged of duty for such advice in the heat of battle. But God's ways are not our ways… He whittled Gideon's army from 32,000 down to 300. For what purpose - "lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying 'My own hand has saved me.'" (Judges 7:2a) He ultimately blessed Gideon with victory, but only after Gideon was broken, outnumbered, and armed with the unconventional weaponry of a pitcher, a lantern, and a trumpet. This was for two purposes: 1. that his confidence remained solely in the Lord for victory; and 2., that the Lord would clearly receive all of the glory.

The Rock That Is Higher Than I
David also came to this cognition that he did not have the strength nor the power to rescue himself! Hear the cry of his sequestered heart in Psalm 61:2, "When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Through David, you are given a glimpse into the forlorn heart of the man after God's own heart! David wrote Psalm 61 after Absalom's rebellion (2 Samuel 13-19). Absalom, who was his son, had "stolen the hearts of Israel from the King" and had murdered his own brother Amnon. He committed treason and ultimately himself was murdered by David's nephew Joab who ignored the king's orders to "deal gently with his son." When his heart was overwhelmed he knew where to turn to be apprehended by the One who was greater than his grief. He turned to Jehovah God - the rock that was higher than himself.

Charles Spurgeon, that powerful British pastor and theologian of the late 19th century, when reflecting on this verse comments:

"When the huge waves of trouble wash over me, and I am completely submerged, not only as to my head, but also my heart. It is hard to pray when the very heart is drowning, yet gracious men plead best at such times. Tribulation brings us to God, and brings God to us. Faith's greatest triumph's are achieved in her heaviest trials. It is all over with me, affliction is all over me; it encompasses me as a cloud, it swallows me up like a sea, it shuts me in with thick darkness, yet God is near, near enough to hear my voice, and I will call him. …our inmost faith has its quiet heart-whispers to the Lord as to One who is assuredly our very present help."

Safe Harbor for the Weary Traveler
God provided a place of harborage for David. The name of the Lord is a strong tower that we can run to and be safe (Proverbs 18:10). Do you know Him as your Lord and Savior? Then take heart dear child of God, for in Him you are safe (Jude 1); in Him you are secure (Romans 5:1-10); in Him you are saved (Ephesians 1:4-14); in Him you are forgiven (Hebrews 10:10-12); and in Him, even when you are weak you are strong - for His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Noah: God's Journeyman
Noah stood alone with God for over 100 years amidst the ridicule and scorn of men (Genesis 6-8); Daniel stood alone with God against the dictates of king Darius for praying to the one true God (Daniel 6); Jeremiah spent many days alone in a pit waiting to die for being faithful to God (Jeremiah 38:6-13); Jesus was alone in the garden and finally at the cross for our redemption (Luke 22:39-23:49); Paul in his last days on earth before Nero took his life was thoroughly disregarded by men but the Lord stood with him (2 Timothy 4:16-17); and John was exiled to the island called Patmos as he penned that great apocalyptic book of Revelation - he was alone with God (Revelation 1:9). We can adjoin David and Gideon to this list along with Moses, Abraham, Amos and the countless names known and unknown from that great Hall of Faith chapter in Hebrews eleven.

But here is the hard lesson that we must learn: to be much for God publicly; we must be much with God privately.

Mercy in the Wilderness
The Lord uses times of deep sorrow and trial to make us, yes, make us run to Him and Him alone. There is mercy in the wilderness; and the wilderness is the merciful thing. God uses those wasteland experiences to conform us to Himself. "All things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose" not because at the end of the day everything is nice and neatly problem free. NO! But because "we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son!" (Romans 8:28-29)

We are servants with scars.

Though all may forsake you there is One who will never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5); who will love you to the uttermost (John 13:1); who will stick closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24); who knows every one of our needs (Matthew 6:25-34); and will be attentive to the prayers of His children (1 John 5:14-15). If you ask Him for bread He surely will not give you a stone (Matthew 7:7-11).

He will lead you to the rock that is higher than you. Like David the Lord will raise you high above the tempest - to the rock that is higher than your storm; higher than your loneliness. Praise be to God David found a place of sanctuary and shelter in God Himself and you may as well if you place your faith and in trust in Christ alone!

God's Love Is Deeper Still
Corrie Tenboom in the deprecating loneliness of her prison barracks in a concentration camp during World War II penned these words of hope and courage, "there is no pit so deep where God's love is not deeper still." We know and savor the heights of His love beloved; but do we know and cherish the authenticity of the depths of His love? Loneliness, in that spirit, can then be seen as a gift; for it forces us to our knees in sweet communion with our heavenly Father. Shut the door of your prayer closet and thank the Lord that to be alone with God is to never be alone.

The Crucible of Grace
The great blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, sums up the full assurance that a true child of God can have even in times of despair:
"Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, Oh what a foretaste of glory divine. Perfect submission all is at rest, I am my Savior am happy and blessed. This is my story this my song, Praising my Savior all the day long."

Sanctuary and Shelter in the Savior
What sweet consolation that God has made a home for the lonely! Praise the Lord we have a place of sanctuary and shelter in our faithful High Priest who knows our weaknesses and is able to come to the aid of His own (Hebrews 2:17-18). Has your heart been overwhelmed today? Do you feel abandoned, shunned by those closest to you? Has the covenant of saints been silent to your cries and cares? Do you ever cry out to the Lord as the Psalmist did, "Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses." (Psalm 25:16-17)

Even the most perfect of churches, loving of families and nurturing of friendships will fall short at some point in failing to uphold a lonely heart that is overwhelmed. It is good for us to go through times of loneliness to learn that Jesus Christ is completely sufficient for every need; every desire; every longing and craving of the heart; every trouble that could wage war against our soul; every emergency and every fear. (2 Corinthians 3:5; Colossians 1:15-20) When the darkest hour of the night arrives we may expect the dawn; when the sea is at its lowest ebb the tide will surely turn. When our heart is enlarged with trouble we may surely expect His deliverance.

Is Eleanor Rigby in Your Church?
The songwriting team of Lennon/McCartney have given us one of the great profound lyrics describing one who is tragically lonely and forgotten - a Lazarus of this world named Eleanor Rigby.
"Eleanor Rigby
died in the church and was buried along with her name,
nobody came.

Father MacKenzie,
wiping [her death] from his hands as walked from her grave,
no one was saved.

All the lonely people where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?"

God has made a home for the lonely beloved. Not only in the precious arms of the Caring Shepherd, but also in the family of God, the body of Christ, His church. The Apostle Paul exhorts us that when one part of the body hurts we all hurt (1 Corinthians 12:26). This is the intimate fellowship that the community of believers should enjoy to the fullest.

Sadly, this is the adverse response that Eleanor Rigby fell victim to. The church should never allow people to drift in and out carelessly. Pastors are called “the episkopos” – overseers; and it means to look intently into the needs of the flock of God (1 Timothy 3:1). Thank the Lord for faithful pastors/elders that are caring for the hurting within the church (1 Peter 5:1-4). Thank the Lord when a church comes to the assistance of another and bears their burdens for a season. Bless the Lord for the Aarons and Urs that will hold up the arms of a weary Moses (Exodus 17:10-12).

You are Never Alone When You're Alone with the Lord
As a Christian, you are never ever totally alone (Romans 8:35-39). God is with you. This is the joy of Christmas, Emanuel - God with us (Matthew 1:23). He is with you. His Holy Spirit is with you (Ephesians 1:13-14). And not only with you but He lives in you! "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27) His church is with you. Find refuge this day in the pages of His comforting word (Psalm 119:24).

Run to Him and thank Him that He is Sovereign and Lord of your loneliness. Find comfort in the reality that you walk with other brothers and sisters in the great company of believers. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Give your life away to the needs of others and discover God's grace to you in the process (Philippians 2:1-4).

And not only earthly consolation but He is preparing for us a mansion (John 14:1-4), a heavenly home, where there is no more tears, suffering, sorrow, loneliness, sin, sickness or disappointment (Revelation 21:3-4). Where we will worship Him forever with the entire hosts of heaven! What a wonderful privilege to be numbered among the family of the Firstborn! (Revelation 4:1-11). Be not be consumed today with self pity or content to gaze inward and dwell on your lonely state. Do not rest there. Do not make your home there.

Look upward for your help draweth nigh - for God has truly made a home for the lonely!


This article was originally posted September 2005
It has been edited and updated

18 comments:

Jeremy Weaver said...

Good post. I wonder if I have been a friend to the lonely. I seriously doubt it. Thanks for the exhortation and the reminder of the promise that we have a home in heaven.

DOGpreacher said...

Amen, this SHOULD be the work of the church. Thanks for the insightful and challenging post, Steve.

My thoughts went to James 1:27, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Also coming to mind is James 4:17, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

Steve, I think this is one of your best messages yet. This is so needed, so timely, and...for me, Monday was the perfect day. I am resolved for this to be on my mind stronger than ever...I am...

grateful for grace.

Bhedr said...

What an incredible boost this was for me. Amen and Selah!

Sparks said...

I just completed reading Chuch Swindoll's book about Paul and have been greatly blessed by it. A remarkable fellow, that Paul, who experienced so much pain and loneliness for the One he met on the road to Damascus. At the end of the book as Paul is led to his "release" (death on this earth) tears flowed from my eyes as I comtemplated how Paul in an instant was with his Saviour whom he had served.

Sometimes at church I sit lonely surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ.

Driving home this evening I was thinking how we talk about "putting on the breastplate of righteousness" and too often in the church find that it is our fellow Christians driving a spear into your unprotected back that must make the devil laugh.

DOGpreacher said...

I am aghast at the lack of comments on THIS post! After all this is what it is all about.

I am saddened that this type of post doesn't SEEM worthy of acknowledgement.

graced,
DOGpreacher

Shawn L said...

This is very very good for my walk today. Thank you......Thank Goodness for his grace.


Dogpreacher,

some of us have taken a break from blogging for about 6 days, maybe why. I think blogging comments go in spurts for people at time, I'm thinking

Michele Rayburn said...

I never feel lonely when I spend time alone with the Lord, and when I practice His presence the rest of the time. When I am not "filled with the Spirit" is when I am the most lonely.

What a blessing it would be (what revival might even come) if all of us Christians would make it a priority to develop our Spirit life through close communion with Christ. Then our lives would be more fulfilling. And when we come together again, our fellowship with one another will be more fulfilling.

What the church seems to be lacking today is the Spirit of Christ moving in our own personal lives the way God meant for it to be. We lack spiritual teaching that will draw us back to Christ. The teachings we often hear tend to be man-centered rather than Christ-centered.

We should keep our focus on Christ and imitate Him, instead of looking at ourselves and beating ourselves up about how imperfect we are. He’s not surprised by our weaknesses. Even before we were born, He knew how we would stumble. But we are "accepted in the Beloved". So we should keep our focus on Him. We should think on things like God's everlasting love for us, His total acceptance of us, and our security in Him.

I think that if we don't fully comprehend and receive God's love for us, we may feel unacceptable to Him when we fail. And that kind of alienation can also make us feel lonely.

When our own lonely heart is comforted by our communion with Christ, then we can fellowship with others in a way that will ease their loneliness. It's so important to be sensitive to the fact that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we really need each other.

In His Love,
Michele

DOGpreacher said...

I understand Sparks....it's this easy-believism, manipulate them down the aisle, to ape the prayer, sign the card, get dunked, your ok-I'm ok stuff that leads to a host of non-regenerate members sitting behind you with spear in hand!

baldtrainer said...

I read this and immediately thought of this great hymn written many years ago in the midst of great sorrow and loss...

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Bhedr said...

What a blessing that hymn is. One of the greatest. Michelle you ministered to me as did this well written post. Hold fast you men of God who are struggling and remember the Love and patience Joseph endured with the brothers who hated him. He loved them back with the love only Yeshua has. Indeed there is no pit that He is not deeper still. What Joy we have from the victory He won. Rejoice!

Bhedr said...

A quote from our favorite preacher Spurgeon:

"The Lord can give repentance to the most unlikely, turning lions into lambs, and ravens into doves. Let us look to Him that this great change may be wrought in us. Assuredly the contemplation of the death of Christ is one of the surest and speediest methods of gaining repentence. Do not sit down and try to pump up repentence from the dry well of corrupt nature. It is contrary to the laws of mind to suppose that you can force your soul into that gracious state. Take your heart in prayer to Him who understands it, and say, "Lord, cleanse it. Lord, renew it. Lord work repentence in it." The more you try to produce penitent emotions in yourself, the more you will be disappointed: but if you believingly think of Jesus dying for you, repentence will burst forth. Meditate on the Lord's shedding His heart's blood out of love to you. Set before your minds eye the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion; and, as you do this, He who was the bearer of all this grief will look at you, and with that look He will do for you what He did for Peter, so that you also will go out and weep bitterly. He who died for you can, by His gracious Spirit, make you die to sin; and He who has gone into glory on your behalf can draw your soul after Him, away from evil and toward holiness."

ALL OF GRACE C.H. Spurgeon
Moody Press

2Tal said...

It is so true that loneliness is often a merciful catalyst for drawing closer to Jesus. I've exeperienced this firsthand. The greater my needs the more I see the depth of my lack and the more prone I am to seek truth, to call out to God for more understanding, guidence, to more desperately hold dearly to "the rock that is higher than I".
Great post.

A fellow beggar at the banquet.

ambiance-five said...

Beautiful.

Praise God! Blessed.

ajlin said...

Dude.
Where has Steve been lately?

Jabbok said...

The problem is:
Ms. Rigby attended every service the church offered. She was an active part of the women's league, the knitting circle and senior's for Christ. She sang in the choir and walked the isle on a regular basis to pray in the altar. She often responded to the pastor's weekly diatribe that began with the words, "Are you lonely, depressed, discourage? Jesus is the answer."
If the pastor had just forsaken the psychology and preached Christ she might have had a better go of it.

mcaugust said...

"and you may as well if you place your faith and trust in Christ alone!"

For me, the number one problem with loneliness is myself. I do not surrender to my Comforter. I know that He will not forsake me, yet I know that I often forsake Him. I recall the classic hymn, "I surrender all". Lord, help me today to surrender my all to You.

Some may already be familiar with this prayer and is one of my favorites.


Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the
healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the
rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the
victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to
possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear
the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of
vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.

(The Valley of Vision. Arthur Bennett, ed. 1975.)


To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Steve Camp said...

McAugust:
That is one of my favorite prayers as well. Have you listened to Max McLean recite the entire book of Valley of Vision? It is tremendous!

Thank you for sharing those impactful and comforting words with us all today.

Steve

gbfluteman said...

Much of this post reminds me of the song by Avalon, "Only for the Weak" from their CD, "In a Different Light."

Some say it's rules and regulations
And trying to always be right
No room for mistakes in the choices we make
For only the strong survive
But it's not about perfect performance
Or resolution of will
It's all about surrender
Giving up
Being still

It's only for the weak
For the faint of heart
Those driven to their knees
Those who live with scars
There's power from beyond
We're certain where it's from
And that's our source of strength
Before we follow Christ
We need to be advised
It's only for the weak

He welcomes the worn and weary
All who are wounded by sin
And just as we are, we can fall in His arms
Rest and find shelter in Him
Seems like each day is a battle
With burdens and struggles to face
Only in our losing
Do we really see how much we've gained

It's only for the weak
For the faint of heart
Those driven to their knees
Those who live with scars
There's power from beyond
We're certain where it's from
And that's our source of strength
Before we follow Christ
We need to be advised
It's only for the weak

The Father always starts
With a willing heart
Open to how He moves
As His Spirit is poured
He will do so much more
Than we dreamed He could do

It's only for the weak
For the faint of heart
Those driven to their knees
Those who live with scars
There's power from beyond
We're certain where it's from
And that's our source of strength
Before we follow Christ
We need to be advised
It's only for the weak